Sunday, August 5, 2018

New Spell/Arcanum: Chimeric Exchange

Years ago I came across this thread where people brain-stormed magic systems. And one of them stuck in my brain for years now, accumulating more details and thoughts. So I'm making it into a specific spell with a place in the world. The entry was this one:
"43. Body Parts
Inspired by a post in the "Why do wizards wear robes?" thread ...
People can't do magic. In fact nobody can really "do" magic, but creatures from other realms have properties that could be described as magical - and those properties are a part of their body. 
An air elemental flies on wings of lightning more manueverable than a hummingbird and faster than an arrow. A salamander has arms literally made of fire, that can stretch to fill an entire courtyard. And if you had those parts, you could do it too.

Not by stealing the parts and stitching them on (although that would be a possible magic system itself); that's not how the ritual works. But you can trade them, and many creatures are willing to make that trade. For them, the properties humans have are magical - things like being able to stand still when the wind blows or touch things without burning them. 

Sometimes, the parts you get in return are a straight-up substitute, but often they're insubstantial, or entirely different. So senior wizards tend to have a lot of prosthetics (hence the voluminous robes to cover up how strange they start looking). A master mage might have false legs (moves around by flying), one arm made of shadow, no tongue (communicates via writing and an assistant), and lives off heat from fires instead of eating food. Making the right choice is crucial - woe to the mage who trades a unique body part for something worthless. Assistants are always useful - while you can't trade their parts for more of your own, you can convince them to make the trades you need and use the resulting abilities on your behalf."

Chimeric Exchange
Level whatever spell
An object similar to a Chinese finger trap, but metal and not woven. (if it's an object)

As a spell the caster selects two parties. If the these two parties come to an agreement, than they can trade body parts between themselves with the same ease that item are exchanged. The deal is finalized with a hand shake (or equivalent custom that both parties except). 
As an item, it works the same except negotiations don't need to be identified before hand and the deal is sealed by both parties inserting an appendage into one of the wholes.

  • For it to work, both parties need to agree to the exchange.
    • The spell doesn't distinguish between willing agreement and coercion.
    • Knowing the specifics of what your giving up and gaining isn't required.
    • The exchange can be one-sided. For example, the spell allows you to give someone an extra eye without taking something from them, if both of you agree.
    • You can trade goods and services that aren't body parts. This is equivalent to a one-sided exchange as far as the spell is concerned. In the above example, you can demand compensation of 10 gold for giving away your eye.
    • As a spell, the caster doesn't need to be one of the two parties but they can be.
  • Once an agreement is reached, the tendrils of etherealness appear and remove the agreed upon body parts and attach them to their new owner. While this is happening both parties are effectively petrified.
    • If interrupted, both parties are unpetrified and die slowly from blood loss or immediately depending on which organs are exposed. If you were exchanging an eye, you'd probably survive with bandages and will eventually need a patch or glass eye to cover it up. If you were switching hearts, than you're screwed.
    • The organs can be placed either where the agreement specifys or what makes most sense if not specified.
    • After the spell does it's magic, a party may die if it suddenly doesn't have a vital organ. If you gave someone lungs without receiving some in return, you're going to start suffocating from not having anything to breath with.
    • There are not scars or stitches left from this spell.
  • Organs that are gained through this spell kind of become part of the person, kind of don't.
    • It takes anywhere from a few weeks to a life time to get used to new body parts, based on myriad of factors.
      • Younger people generally get used to it quicker for example.
    • Beings changed by this spell do not breed true. Procreation results in the offspring using genetic code of whoever the organs originally belonged too. If I sell my testicles or ovaries, it means that anyone born with them are biologically my children.
You can ignore all the bullet-points if want to as the spell description is enought to go off of. The bullet-points are additional ideas that have accumulated over time as the ideas has bounced around in my head. 

World-Building Implications and Possiblities
  • Wizards hide under large cloaks and big hats to hide their weird transmogrified bodies.
    • Wizards that don't use this spell still do it to maintain the mystery.
  • There are physically imposing opponents that none the less have great weaknesses. 
    • Due to trading his liver for the strength of ten men, this person has to be vary careful with his diet.
  • It's common knowledge that deals with wizards is full of peril.
  • A variety of hybrid monsters have some interesting story behind them.
    •  The Manticore is one of those bastards who demands you give him your best physical features on threat of eating you, than proceeds to eat you afterwards anyway.
      • People want him dead for the obvious reasons, but other chimeric mages really want him dead for besmirching their image.
      • Manticore is also an incredibly petty bastard.
    • When the horse nomads came from the steppe to attack our lands, we we're amazed by how the horse and rider moved as one. To counteract whatever sorcery they use to achieve this, we have merged together our strongest steeds and most greatest warriors to produce the centaurs. It is a great sacrifice and those who under go it are noble men indeed.
      • Nobody has the heart to tell the centaur's nation that the magic used by steppe nomads is known as "riding on horseback from the age of three".
    • The Sphinx is also a lion-bodied human who eats people. However unlike fucking Manticore, she doesn't eat people from her country of not-Egypt and targets not-Greece instead. 
    • There is conversely a lion somewhere who is enjoying having opposable thumbs while Sphinx out there eating people.
    • Harpies are a group of birds that wanted human faces.
    • You may wonder who would enought beings to agree that the Chimera should exist like it does. Don't, really don't want to know why this came about.
    • Hybrid creatures that you want to be (un)natural without this spell could still exist, but I would make them "less hybridy". For example merfolk could be made either more mammalian, by making their tail more dolphin-like, or more fish-like like all those creepy mermaid illustrations.
  • Different cultures can have different opinions on this magic.
    • In one place this magic is despised and reviled. Mages who use it are assumed to steal the organs that they gain from it.
    • In another culture the the practice is allowed and has become a part of fashion. Blue eyes are in season right now. Generally only the wealthy have the opportunity to mess around like this.
    • In some places they choose a champion who receives the best organs from willing donors to represent the entire community in a sport or a war.
      • The donors generally swap out organs with the champion and don't die from this.
    • Some kings, priests and heroes have have lived beyond mortal years by swapping out bits of themselves Ship of Theseus style.
    • In places the spell is known the slave trade includes the consideration of person's organs as having separate worth.
    • In places that the spell is not demonized there is variation in whether or not it's ok to change you body shape to something nonhuman.
  • The desperate will give away parts of themselves to survive or pay a dept.
    • Artists would give up their painting hands to pay for things, having to rebuild the muscle memory from scratch.
    • A teenager sell their face for an ugly one and a cold bag of coins.
  • Spies could be anywhere and they can hide under anyone's face.
    • They often don't but the possibility is still there.
  • Grandpa lost his leg in a battle, so he could support the family he secretly went to a witch with a goat. She replaced the stump with the goat's hind leg and accepted the rest of the animal as payment for services rendered. Grandpa is deeply ashamed of having a goat leg and hides it from everybody. While he still walks with a hobble, at least he's able to support his family.
  • The witch Matilda has cat ears instead of human ears. She replaced her ears with those of her familiar's back when she was an novice and has worn them ever sense. Even thought human ears make Matilda's familiar look kind of silly, he's accepted this because it makes Matilda so happy to have them. 
    • That won't stop him from complaining about it thought, Matilda is wanted for heresy in several countries and they could use a lower profile.
  • The dragon Zorsass has is the greatest opera singer in the city. They achieved this by trading away most of their body for a smaller and sleeker human form, the best voice in the world, large powerful lungs, a fully staffed mansion and enought bribes to become a member in the most exclusive of clubs.
    • If encounter someone with dragon organs in the city, they probably once belonged to Zorsass.
    • Other dragons are baffled and disturbed by Zorsass's life choices. Best to avoid the topic.
    • As a dragon Zorsass has not spent a penny of his or her horde, they say that it's hidden in the depths of the dungeon.
    • Zorsass may look fairly human, but underneath they are still a dragon, and could easily tear you in half with elegant grace. Will also lounge around like a dragon when guests aren't over.
  • PCs can sell the random mutations they receive from chaos magic and potions as treasure.
  • Clever PCs can improve their stats with negotiations.
  • Losing your humanity in the pursuit of power has never been so literal.
  • On the flip side of the last point, beware the Cat with Hands.
You could have a story based around solving someone's gender dysphoria by going on a quest to find people to trade away the body parts with. However I'm not sure how to handle that respectfully. Depending on how you handle it, this spell could lead to some dark places or mythical tales or gonzo shenanigans with puns.

Friday, August 3, 2018

New Spell/Arcanum: Curse Flesh

Curse Flesh
Level 1 Spell
A needle (in item form)
Upon casting this spell, or inserting this needle into living tissue, a curse is hidden within.
  • The curse will lie dormant in the tissue until the tissue is pierced or cut open. When this happens, the curse will inflict itself upon whoever open the wound for it. Roll a random curse table to see what the curse does.
    • The spirits of objects can be cursed if there's no one else around to take it.
    • Magical arts that rely on the body like muscle wizardry or stuff involving chakras are impeded by the curse like the spiritual blood clot. 
  • Flesh that has curses within it becomes is corrupted in a variety of ways. If the curse is removed, and the tissue is still living, the corruption will slowly fade away. If it is dead, than there is close to no way of getting it out.
    • Corrupted flesh becomes more sickly, and constantly irritated by something.
    • Corrupted meat is spoiled, foul smelling and has all the nutritional value of food poisoning.
    • Corrupted bone, hide and so forth becomes infuriating to work with. It will be too easy to rip, and to stubborn to cut somehow simultaneously. No matter how much it's ground there will always be uneven chunks. Any vessel or pouch it's made with will have holes and leaks that won't be noticed until it's too late.
  • While it's not necessary, it's difficult to cast this spell without a huge amount of expletives if your in bad mood. You may need to make a Will save if that matters.
  • Methods of cleansing, curse lifting and disenchanting all work against this spell as long as it's not done by the hands of someone who would willingly cast this spell upon themselves.

World-building implications based around this spell existing.
  • Anti-relics: The exact opposite of saintly relics. Both are used in necromantic magics, while easier to find then relics, anti-relics can still be a hassle.
  • It's common knowledge that wizards need to be beaten with sticks. The exact reason why isn't always clarified, but everyone knows that wizards need to be hit with sticks.
    • Some believe that they need to be hit with their own staves, others say they need to be oak and wrapped in mistletoe, others yet say you need planks used in the construction of a gallows. It's all very confusing and wizards find it upsetting.
  • There are treasures that everyone knows the location of but none is able to get because it's stuck inside the stomach of a madman who has cursed their stomach millions upon thousands of times.
  • Vaults where the cursed dead are stored, far away from where they could do anyone any harm.
  • Complex contraptions that are used to indirectly pierce open sorcerers and the blighted iron spike that result from this.
  • It's possible to bullshit your way out of being eaten by claiming that you have a curse upon your flesh. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2018


The only reason this exists is because I thought "Suddenness" sounds like a funny name for an attribute. Following that, "Spikiness" and "Snarf-ability" also sound amusing. From that I extrapolated to the only logical conclusion for a game system. Be warned, this text has not been written with something so trivial as play-ability in mind. Rather, it is meant to amuse you for like a couple seconds or so.
So the stats rolled 1d20 across ares:

Suddenness(SudS): Roll under to do things suddenly. Roll over to not get shot when a police officer and/or highwaymen says “now don’t make any sudden movements”.

Spikiness(SpkS): The amount of damage done on full body contact with you. Reckless touchings cause half SpkS damage. Gentle touching causes like 1 or somethings.

Snarf-abilitys(SnfS): Roll under SnfS to end up in people’s mouths, stomachs or lungs. If you don’t want to be inside in someone’s mouth for some weird reason, roll overs.

Sarcasms(SarS): Roll under or people take what you say literally. There is no not rolling this.
SarS also serves the vital function prohibiting snarvels of low sarcasms rating from being too sarcastics. Sthus allowing potential players to argue about whether or not their characters are too sarcastic, instead of playing this.

Such when a snarvels takes damage, the damage goes to the snarvels favorite stat, for God hates.

So each sentence spoken in character must start with an s and end with an s. Sis the most important rules. Sif you don't follow this rule, then any enjoyment you gain from this game is badwrongfun, therefor not deposit-able in any fun banks.

Secretly the goal of all Snarvels is world dominations. Since ever, everyone who interacted with Snarvels, knows.

Snarvels do not get singular tenses. Sthey don’t deserve it’s.

Snarvels despise the letter S.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Phantom Steed Spell Reinterpreted

Something that has always bothered me with D&D spells is how efficient and "texture-less" they often are. What I mean by texture-less is that the magic doesn't interact with the world in a meaningful way. The cleric mumbles something, snaps their fingers and poof you've got food and drink for the evening. Mundane solutions often have so much more interesting details to them that can be interacted with. For example if you're trying to make someone dead from across the room, the wizard answer is to use magic missile, while a more mundane answer is to use a gun. The gun has a lot more limitations on it, it requires effort to make the gun, gunpowder that isn't wet, bullets, careful aim and all the infrastructure that makes those things possible. The wizard does have to learn the spell, and pull off fancy hand gestures for it to work, but it isn't as intuitive to imagine as all the details that make a gun work. Due to this the costs of magic will get sidelined and ignored. People have come up with solutions for this, like spell mishap tables, but I don't think that's the best solution either. With many things in life the bad part is inseparable from the good part, because they are not two things, but one thing that has both positive and negative properties. Fire that can't burn you is fire that won't be useful for cooking food or working steel. If the consequences of a spell are woven directly into the spell itself than the spell has greater verisimilitude and is more interesting. Now that I'm done rambling about my opinions on spells in general, I'll actually address the title of this post.

Summon Phantom Steed:
Level 1 spell
A whistle (if you want it be a magic item or itO style arcanum)
When this spell is cast, a phantom steed appears out of nowhere at a light trot. The phantom steed has the stats of a horse in your system with the following differences:
  • It is clearly not a horse, roll a d6 to see what it looks like: 
    • 1. A horse made by someone who's never seen one, legs and neck too long, and you can't tell how much legs it has, but it's the wrong amount.
    • 2.  Some infernal cross between a dragon, a wagon and a beetle. It gurgles and bellows awful smoke behind it.
    • 3. A giant self propelled wheel with crooked spokes to grab onto. 50% it has spikes along it, 50% chance it's on fire.
    • 4. A palanquin with human legs sticking out of the carrying poles. It is otherwise quite tastefully decorated.
    • 5. A large terrestrial bird, similar to an ostrich if ostriches were made to be as aerodynamic as inhumanly possible.
    • 6. A chariot pulled by a a single fly. This fly is angry and metallic and strong enought to pull a chariot, but it's still a fly.
  • If something would inhibit it's ability to move, it either doesn't or destroys the steed, 50% 50% chance.
  • It is not able to slow down, it can only maintain it's current speed or go faster.
  • If given the option it will always choose to go faster.

The reason I've made this spell work they way it does, is so it's not a strictly more optimal option to have than a horse. The fact that it can't slow down means that it's difficult to control. Sense it can not stop getting on and off will poss some difficulty, and in the case of getting off could involve taking damage from the tumble. Also holding on will be difficult if you it's allowed to get fast enought. This spell also has utility as a combat spell, because even if the hell on wheels doesn't run into something, the intimidation factor of it whizzing by could have an effect.